Three-Class Electric Bike System Explained

Three-Class Electric Bike System Explained

The bike class system is a mind-boggling question in the mind of new or aspiring bike owners.

It can be a bit fuzzy when you want to buy a new bike and you realize you have to choose through electric bike classes.

Fortunately, for you, we will provide answers on the meaning and legal status of the three bike classes below.

So, what are the three classes of ebikes?

The table below shows the three bike classes and their brief descriptions:

Class Descriptive Term Max. allowed speed(kph) Max. allowed wattage
1. Pedal-assist 25 250
2. Throttle on Demand 32 750
3. Speed pedelec 45 750

As we have seen above, for the purposes of this regulation the ebikes have been classified into three groups. Read on and we will guide you through the three ebike classes as recognized by the law.


Class1: Pedal-Assist Ebike

Pedal-Assist Ebikes

So what qualifies a bike to be in this class?

This electric bike class is what is called pedal-assist or pedelecs. Of course, they will have different terms depending on countries, states, and jurisdictions. In the US and Canada, for instance, have rules which guide on the classifications.

In the EU regions, they have different classes of what they term as “electric vehicles”. But when all these terms are distilled down, the basic meaning is, they cannot use electric power without throwing the pedal in the works. In this region, they are restricted to speeds of 25kph and motor wattage of 250w.

You get the benefits of pedal-assist only when you start pedaling, otherwise, you will ride as you would your conventional bikes. You will have the motor kicking in and transmitting the power for your easy riding uphill.

To qualify for this class, the bike cannot move at speeds of over 20 kilometers per hour. Their wattage also does not exceed 750w. In some countries such as the US, your bike will have an allowable speed of up to 32kph.

These bikes are allowed in law to be used in most usual roads without the need to fulfill further conditions. What that means is that you can freely ride on mountain bike trails, bike paths, roads anywhere else where traditional bikes are allowed.

Class2: Throttle On Demand

E-bike throttles

Let us now unveil the next of electric bike classes. It has a motor that creates forwards propulsion of the bike without the need for pedaling. The throttle is the game changer between the two bikes. Class2 bikes have this lever that once you hold it down your bike moves forward without any further input from you.

However, for safety reasons, some bike brands come equipped with a safeguard feature. It requires that you first start pedaling before the bike can start to move. The maximum speed allowed by law for this class is 28km per hour.

This class of bike is still considered low-speed bikes. The ebike in this class are still slightly restricted, though. Granted they are in the mid of the speed spectrum they still enjoy some privileges.

You will not be in trouble while riding this bike anywhere in most countries.  Neither will you require any special license. It is however still held in a higher level due to its mode of propulsion and power range than the pedal-assist electric bike class.

Class 3: Speed Pedelecs

Speed Pedelecs

This class of bike is also equipped with pedal assist power abilities. It is made in such a way that it will use the motor until it reaches 45km/h where it disconnects power. For you to qualify to ride this bike by law, you need not younger than 16 years of age and Also the use of a helmet is mandatory.

These requirements will vary with countries and states. In the US for instance in Utah and Arkansas, it is only mandatory for riders and their passengers to wear helmets if they are under 21.

If you are a resident of California, Ohio or Tennessee law will require you to have your safety gadgets every time you are on a class3 e-bike. For Michigan and Colorado, the age mandatory age limit again goes down to 18 for riders to have helmets on. Again, In most of the states, you will not be allowed on the paths designated for class1 bikes either.

So there is a little bit of confusion out there. But the most important thing is to liaise with the authorities within your area to have a clear picture of what is legal and what is not. Let us now find out the main features that distinguish the various electric bike classes.

The Distinguishing Factors

1. Pedal Assist

Pedal Assists in Action

This is the mode of propulsion found in class 1 bikes. Also known as the pedelecs, the pedal-assist mechanism kicks in and helps you to ease your peddling. It feels kind of like your conventional bikes only that you get this breeze in your pedaling effort.

Moreover, you can have the flexibility and a longer range while pedaling than when only on the throttle. But most importantly, class1 pedal-assist bikes have settings on the level of assistance you would wish to have. You can adjust from low, medium and high.

  • Low. feels more like a work out move. Yes, you are riding your bike while getting a little assistance
  • Medium. You are now enjoying the balance of power between man and machine abilities.
  • High. In a hurry? your class1 bike will have you there with little effort


Throttle used on an ebike

Your class 2 bike will be in that category courtesy of this feature. You have a choice of pedaling or just engaging only the throttle mode. Some bikes will come equipped with a gadget that you can use to alternate between the low and full range.

There are a variety of throttles equipped on class2 bikes depending on brands. You can have:

  • Half grip- you can operate by twisting in a similar method you would a motorbike accelerator.
  • Button- It’s a button you can toggle between on and off.
  • Thumb throttle. Just like the name suggests you make use of your thumb to push

3. Dual-mode

You will get this mode mostly in the class3 bike. What happens here is that you can have your cake and eat it. You can pedal while enjoying the benefits of the throttle. This combination creates very powerful propulsion. Most bikes in this class have higher power than e-bikes in the class1 and class2.

So which of the electric bike classes of ebike is the best? This will boil down to how you will be using your ebike. You could be the adrenaline pumping cruising types or the feel-good workout types. Let us get the tips to consider when choosing classes of ebike.

Tips on choosing between electric bike classes

  1. Your uses. How do you plan to use the bike? If you want a bike for zooming around in your daily errand, you most would go for a fast class3 throttle bikes. For users who are more into exercising and fitness, class 1 is your ally. So you need to have your priorities on the use of the bike figured out first.
  2. What is your budget? You should expect to fork much higher for a throttle class 2 bike than its pedal-assist class 1 cousin. Plus the faster moving class 2 or 3 has more features which add to the overall cost of the bike. Some that increase the cost are features such as the expensive cadence and torque sensors.
  3. Where you live. You should research the laws applicable to ebike use in your country or state. As we found earlier legislation varies with countries and states. You don’t want to buy a class 3 bike only to realize it is restricted where you will be using it.
  4. Age of the user. For example, no age restriction for riders of class 1 and 2 e-bikes in the US state of California. However, in the same state, you ought to be 16 years and older to ride a class 3 bike. Plus, the use of a helmet is a requirement.
  5. Spare parts.

Ebike parts

Electric bikes parts definitely don’t come cheap. Plus some bike parts may not be readily available in the market.

Before you make your final decision on which electric bike you want to buy, you will need to have done your homework well.

Related questions

We always encounter the following two questions from our readers. Let us find out their answers.

1. What are the speeds of ebikes?

E-Bike Speeds

The speed at which you can ride your bike depends on a variety of variables, among them the ebike class. Class1 bikes are considered low speeds since they have only pedal-assist abilities. Class 2 with the throttle on demand can max at 32kph. Class 3 is the fastest of the three electric bike classes and is allowed to peak at 45kph.

2. Can an ebike battery last long?

Most bikes are equipped with Lithium batteries. They are considered quality and long-lasting. One battery charge cycle is expected to last up to 30 km.